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Who Are the Poor? View Comments
By Carol Ann Morrow

MEETING PEOPLE IN POVERTY face-to-face is the fundamental first action of Vincentians, as members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are called. Strengthened by prayer and reflection, they go two by two to relieve human need, always beginning with a personal visit.

This makes Vincentians a primary and informed source of knowledge about the faces and places of poverty in the United States today. Seeking to grasp this picture, St. Anthony Messenger interviewed Sheila Gilbert, current president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, at her modest home on the east side of Indianapolis. The lifelong Hoosier has been the soft-spoken, direct, and knowledgeable leader of the 172,000 Vincentians in this nation since September 2011 and has been an active member of the society for 30 years. She is the first woman to head the society in the United States (see sidebar).

Elsewhere in this issue you can track the numbers. Gilbert prefers to describe situations.

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Carol Ann Morrow, retired assistant managing editor of St. Anthony Messenger, is a graduate of St. Mary Academy, the same Franciscan high school from which Sheila Gilbert graduated.

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Louis of France: At his coronation as king of France, Louis IX bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. Other kings had done the same, of course. Louis was different in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he brought peace and justice. 
<p>He was crowned king at 12, at his father’s death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his minority. When he was 19 and his bride 12, he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage, though not without challenge. They had 11 children. </p><p>Louis “took the cross” for a Crusade when he was 30. His army seized Damietta ini Egypt but not long after, weakened by dysentery and without support, they were surrounded and captured. Louis obtained the release of the army by giving up the city of Damietta in addition to paying a ransom. He stayed in Syria four years. </p><p>He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. His regulations for royal officials became the first of a series of reform laws. He replaced trial by battle with a form of examination of witnesses and encouraged the use of written records in court. </p><p>Louis was always respectful of the papacy, but defended royal interests against the popes and refused to acknowledge Innocent IV’s sentence against Emperor Frederick II. </p><p>Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis (October 4), caring even for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace. </p><p>Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. He kept lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion. </p><p>Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.</p> American Catholic Blog God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty. <br />–St. John of the Cross

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